Angela Bean has been suspended until 17 July 2018 by the New Zealand Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal after she admitted taking $2,000 which should have been paid to the firm employing her. The Tribunal also censured Ms Bean in  NZLCDT 7.
Ms Bean represented a couple in what came to be a somewhat difficult transaction. At the conclusion of the transaction, one of the clients asked Ms Bean what level of fees had been incurred.
On being told that the time recorded came to approximately $4,000, the client asked Ms Bean “what she could do for cash”. Ms Bean told the client the fee would be $2,500.
Ms Bean told the Tribunal she had discretion to write off time and had general independence concerning billing of fees.
When the client returned the next day with $2,500 cash, instead of invoicing him for that amount, Ms Bean raised an invoice for $500 and took $2,000 for herself.
Ms Bean, who described herself as being at a very low ebb and highly stressed at the time, almost immediately regretted the dishonesty, but seemed unable to put it right.
Within four to five days her deception was discovered by her employer and she was confronted about it. She immediately acknowledged her wrongdoing, returned the money, resigned and apologised.
Shortly after, she self-reported to the New Zealand Law Society and handed in her practising certificate on 17 July 2015. She has not sought to practise law since.
A lawyers standards committee laid charges and Ms Bean admitted these at the earliest opportunity and fully co-operated with the process.
The Tribunal also noted that Ms Bean had, before this event, an unblemished disciplinary record and had practised law for 15 years without any previous concerns.
The Tribunal imposed the following censure:
“Ms Bean, the Tribunal has chosen to censure you in addition to imposing the other penalties it has. A formal written censure serves to remind you, members of the legal profession generally and members of the public that a departure from proper behaviour, particularly a departure into the fringes of dishonesty, cannot go without adverse comment. You are censured accordingly.”
The suspension until 17 July 2018 is the equivalent to three years’ suspension from the time when Ms Bean surrendered her practising certificate.
The Tribunal also ordered Ms Bean to pay $6,008.73 standards committee costs and $5,820 Tribunal costs.